Shifting Gears

what i do So when you sit down to write a particular story, and it makes you physically ill, and you keep trying, how long do you go before you decide the sheer misery isn’t worth it?

I’m not asking for a friend.

It appears my particular answer is “about a month, all told.” About a month of dreading working each day, sitting down, struggling to type a few more words, and my stomach suddenly feeling as if a blowtorch had been turned on inside it. I am unsure whether I have grown more stubborn or less, because I’m not used to stopping a book because it physically pains me. I’m used to just powering through, as I do in so many parts of my life, disregarding any damage because I’ve promised, or it’s necessary, or I’m just too goddamn intractable to know when to quit. I appear to have finally reached my limit with this particular book.

To be fair, this book has been years in gestating, and has had a tortuous path at best. I’m just…finally…done, I think. No matter how much I want to finish it, it’s not worth the cost. I can’t afford to lose this sort of working time on something that makes me stagger into the loo and retch from sheer pain.

A factor in me deciding to stop hurting myself was an editor I trust saying to me, “What would you write if you didn’t have to write anything? That will be our next thing, because you work best when I let you just run.” Which led me to start working on the thing I really was looking forward to, and wouldn’t you know, I had forgotten what it felt like to be excited to sit down and work. I’d forgotten when it felt like to not have my stomach lit on fire and crawling out through my mouth while I typed.

I have found (shockingly, I know) that I rather prefer not feeling that way. I suppose I’ll have to chalk this up to “lesson learned.” It’s been an extremely expensive lesson all the way around.

In a month or so I will make a final decision about that poor book. It may be that I just need some time away. I’m hoping that’s the case. In the meantime, I’m going to work on things that don’t make me physically ill.

And that, as one says, is that.

  • Perhaps it is something that just does not fit with you and your life right now?

    I experience this with books all of the time. I will attempt to read a book and it will be a torturous affair until I finally just put it down to come back to it at another point. From my own experiences I have found that some books just don’t fit with the mood I am in, no matter how much I typically enjoy the author/content. I have come back to books several times before hitting the “right” moment in which I could read them. I will be honest and say I only go back to books from authors who I normally enjoy reading and rarely spend that much effort on a new to me author. Unfair? Yep, you bet your ass it is but I just do not have the extra energy to spend on that sort of thing. Sinking into a world, no matter the side of the page you come from, should not be torturous. Does it cause pain at times? Um, yea. The best works out there cause pain in all of its colors and connotations.

    In the end, I would much rather see you healthy and enjoying your work than have you spit out something that caused you undue pain.

    Kassandra